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Rector's speech to diploma students 20 January 2023

Rektor Irene Alma Lønne holdt tale til diplomstudentene 20 januar

Rector Irene Alma Lønne heldt a speech to the diploma students during a ceremony on 20 January 2023

Photo: Marian Jade

Rector's speech to diploma students 20 January 2023

Dear graduates, 

It’s a pleasure to welcome you all here today to the diploma ceremony at Oslo School of Architecture and Design for the graduates of winter 2023.

It makes me happy to see all of you - already former students - that we now can welcome as our colleagues into the professions of Architecture, Design and Landscape architecture.

Also, a warm welcome to your family and friends – and to all the members of faculty and staff here at AHO that has been an important part of your education and journey.

I have looked forward to this with fear and anticipation. This is my first graduation speech as a rector here at AHO and first graduation speech ever. I feared it because this is an important moment for the school and for you. But I have also looked forward – it's such an honour to send you on to your further path with this speech. 

Chat GPT generates speeches 
Currently, we talk a lot about artificial intelligence and what chat bots mean for our traditions of exams, studying and learning. In fact, several times in recent months I have heard official speeches generated by chatbots. Not bad speeches actually – so preparing for this speech I thought I had to explore that too! Unfortunately, I must disappoint you: the Chat GPT / chat.openai was busy and did not have time or capacity to answer me. I must assume that many other rectors are busy writing diploma speeches - and many others - perhaps students are asking questions that need to be answered.

Sun and festively dressed
Graduation day is a day of celebration. I can imagine you feel the sensation of joy, of accomplishment, of proudness. And you should. You have worked hard – and you have made great results. Your graduation projects are reflecting our time and the challenges we meet. And it’s been wonderful to see how so many of you managed to bring new clever solutions and ideas to the table. High quality, highly relevant – profoundly creative and artistic. Well done.

I can imagine you all have different stories and reasons for choosing to study here. You have been here with us at AHO for your master degree, executive master or PhD-studies – many of you also for the bachelor. You also have in common that you have worked hard to get into the school and that you have worked hard studying here. As a generation you are told you have all the choices in the world – you chose AHO. We are thankful for that.

Formation as a concept closely linked to education
Back to the chatbot: I had intended to ask the chatbot to generate a speech that included: The concept of formation and how it can be seen in a modern understanding of education in contrast to individuality and political demands for societal benefit and relevance in education.

I will now unfold these themes without, maybe fantastic, inputs from the chatbot.

What does formation mean in the context of education – and how does your studies at AHO contribute to both formation and education?

Nowadays there is on one hand strong focus on the individual and the realization of one's own best potential. And on the other, a constant greater political focus on how education must contribute very directly to the demands in the job market and how it can benefit society. In many ways, this can explain some of the stress many young people experience - all doors are open - you have all options and choices if you’re able to develop your own potential. When you then at the same time encounter external pressure that your education and choices are about jobs and personal success and this increased political focus on the social benefit of education, it becomes a very instrumental and pressured system.

Therefore, the formation discussion is important. Isn't education more than this instrumental system? Here at AHO, we see education much more broadly – and I think we certainly have that in common with most other universities.

What is formation? 
Formation is understood as elevation to humanity through culture. There are three key concepts in the definition of formation, which is based on Greek and German philosophy within the field: Elevation, humanity and culture. Education is in this definition closely linked to the concept of humanity.

In the Danish psychology professor Svend Brinkmann's book "Think" - which focuses on thoughtfulness as an important human activity that is overlooked far too much in our busy modern lives. Brinkmann also talks about formation in connection with thoughtfulness and thinking. 

"Formation is a process of elevation, where it is not proteins and carbohydrates that build you up, but cultural works, traditions and forms of practice that make you grow and at some point gain authority and the ability to take an independent position".

Brinkmann sees that formation is elevation to humanity and in many ways opposed to other ideals of the time about self-realization and focus on individuality. In the education you have received here at AHO, there has been a dynamic between these two concepts: you have developed yourselves and at the same time you have been formed in a joint educational process – it has not only been about our subjects and disciplines but also about a larger cultural and human framework of formation to which education is closely linked.

Brinkmann says: "I am concerned with resurrecting the idea that a general human formation must precede the singular self-development. It is not because I want to deny that we all take part in particular groups, communities and nations which give us identity and belonging.  But there is reason to remember that all people are at one and the same time like everyone else, like some others and like no other. These dimensions must be considered in our lives.”

You can say that here these three dimensions has been three equally important dimensions in your education: 
  1. You have become part of a professional community, you have learned tools, theories and mastery within our subjects and disciplines. You have studied and master skills that are in-depth. In this community there is a common identity and its own strong formation. So, you are like "some others"
  2. But at the same time, you are part of something much bigger, namely "everyone else".  I know through your education here you have been challenged and confronted with questions that dealt with broad human issues, societal challenges, etc.
  3. And finally, you are also like no one else – namely yourself – your own individual core. There has been a focus on your individual growth and how each of you has been able to develop as the best designer, architect and landscape architect you can be - and what you want to be.

My hope is that AHO as an institution was able to give you not only an excellent education but also contributed to the larger picture and that we were able to be an important part of your formation process. No matter how you look at it, we have been lucky to know you in your most formative years. It is the very great honor and the great responsibility an educational institution has. I hope that you now feel well equipped to take the next steps.

Embarking on your professional life
During the time you have been students, the world has undergone great changes. Parts of your studies have been influenced by a pandemic that shut down the world. You have had to study under completely different circumstances and conditions than expected. Repercussions from the pandemic are still affecting the world at the same time as new crises have arisen war in Europe, energy crisis and inflation. And other known crises seem to be getting worse, climate and nature crises, economic inequality just to name a few. 

I can imagine you are having similar worries and thoughts about what your life and working life should contain and what direction you want to go. Architecture, design and landscape architecture are important subject matters for the transformation the world needs. 

As I mentioned earlier, your graduation projects have demonstrated that you are fully aware of this and that you are going to make a difference in each of your individual ways, overall, for our professions - and also in the larger human dimension you are a part of and must always keep in mind.

I look forward to seeing which paths you choose, which paths will open up and where you will go. As I said in the beginning: You are now no longer our students – you are our colleagues and I can say on behalf of AHO that we hope you will come back to us. That we will collaborate with you in the professions you will take on, that you will come back for further education, some will perhaps come as teachers or PhD students. That you will participate in critical debates about where our professions and educations are heading, that you will visit exhibitions, lectures and much more. In short, we look forward to seeing you in the future.

Today is the time to celebrate what you have already accomplished! Your great achievements and that you now – in a few minutes will stand with your diplomas in your hand. It is a day when you should take a break, indulge yourself and enjoy the moment and celebrate this together with your family and friends. And together with everyone you have met here during your studies at AHO.

Lastly, I wish to express my gratitude: to you for all you have contributed while being here - and also to your excellent teachers! 

Congratulations again!
Thank you for now - and hope to see you again.